Independence Or Accession?
By Dr Shabir Choudhry
22 January , 2010
The man sounded energetic and confident. He is a political activist from Srinagar and, I was discussing peace process in Kashmir and its likely outcome. I said to him, in negotiations all parties have to give some and take some. Are people of Kashmir now ready to make a compromise? “No way”, he said confidently. “We will never compromise. We want Azadi (freedom)”.
What do you mean by Azadi (freedom) I asked him? He hesitated for a moment and said, “By azadi, I mean azadi”.
I said different people have different meaning of freedom. Freedom generally means absence of restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one's rights and powers.
He said, “We don’t want the Indian army here”.
I asked, “If the Indian army moves out and issues related to law and order are controlled by Kashmiri police or local militia; you have freedom of speech and freedom of movement; is that satisfactory to you”.
He was little perplexed, and appeared bit unsure, and then he said, “We want India to be out of Kashmir. We don’t want to be part of India.”
I asked him, “If you don’t want to be part of India then what do you want to do when Indians move out?”
“We will have azadi (freedom) from India and run our own government, or join Pakistan”, he said.
This has been the problem with the Kashmiri struggle and people of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir is forcibly divided and each region has its own interest and own agenda with no clear destination in mind.
As Kashmir is multi religious and multi ethnic State, there bound to be regional and ethnic issues; but while keeping those issues in mind we have to promote a national interest, and not interest of one religion of one region of the State. Similarly we have to ensure that we do not become foot soldiers of either India or Pakistan.
If ultimate aim of some Muslims of the Valley of Kashmir is to join Pakistan then that could be called accession and not azadi or freedom. Perhaps these people don’t know that the people of Pakistan are also in search of freedom since 1947, and they haven’t seen that yet; and in frustration they are looking for alternatives and some are clearly talking of breaking away from Pakistan.
Furthermore by promoting a Muslim cause or playing a Muslim card they are in practise dividing the State on religious lines; and that is something we must oppose at all costs. The last division on communal lines took place in South Asia in 1947, and people of South Asia are still paying price for that division with their blood.
That division caused death and destruction to property, and affected lives of millions of people. The scars of that bloody division were so deep that communities even now have been come to terms with that. Memories of that division, which generated hatred and animosity among the communities is still dividing the communities and poisoning politics of that region.
Apart from that it is religious fanaticism which has become threat to peace and stability in South Asia and Jammu and Kashmir. It is this fanaticism which is giving bad name to jihad and Islam; and creating enormous problems for Muslims through out the world.
Those Kashmiris who claim that divisions among the Kashmiris are superficial and that all Kashmiris are untied around the demand of right of self determination are not correct as there are deep divisions in the ranks of the Kashmiri people. Even people have different interpretations of right of self determination; and they confuse that with right of accession which was given to us in the UN Resolutions. It is only appropriate that we accept this reality and make sincere efforts to forge some kind of unity.
The divisions we have are ideological and clearly divide the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is unfortunate that even in 2010; there are some Kashmiri leaders who justify use of violence to promote their cause. Some want an Islamic rule; while others want democratic and secular form of government. Some even want to make this struggle a struggle of Kashmiri Muslims, which practically means they want a division of the State on communal lines.
These leaders represent a vested interest which wants instability in the region, as that suits their commercial and political interests. They want pot of communalism and hatred keep on boiling that they can advance their agenda and impose their will on other people.
If we want peace and stability in South Asia then we need to resolve the Kashmir dispute; and we cannot resolve the Kashmir dispute by making it a Muslim problem or a problem of water and resources. It is deeply disturbing that despite enormous sacrifices by the people of Jammu and Kashmir the Kashmir dispute is still perceived as a dispute which has to be resolved by the governments of India and Pakistan.
True, the Kashmir dispute has to be resolved by a process of dialogue and not by use of a gun; but we the people of Jammu and Kashmir must be part of this dialogue process, as we cannot allow bureaucrats of India and Pakistan to decide future of the State and future of our generations.
Writer is Head of Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
To view other articles see my blog: www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com